Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Over in Santa Ana, Theatre Out is putting on a show that focuses on what is probably the most horrifying date in living America’s collective memory –September 11th. Written by Brian Sloan and directed by David C. Carnevale, WTC View ventures into the United States’ mental and emotional response to the pain of that day. The reflective nature found here is both sorrowful and deeply cerebral.
The year is 2001. The place is an apartment in Soho Manhattan, roughly 13 blocks north of the World Trade Center. Our story begins in the weeks immediately following the September 11th attacks on our country. A young man named Eric is trying to keep it all together while struggling to find both a roommate and some form of normalcy after the world’s irrevocable change. As he interviews applicant after applicant we notice the differences in everyone’s emotional and mental reactions to the dismay.
The set is small and simple. The whole play takes place in exactly one room, and you know what, it totally works. There is nothing in the story that needs to be discussed somewhere else. If anything our leading man’s insistence that he stand his ground as a way to stay strong against those who would chase him away from his home add to the understanding of everything that is going on. It’s not a masterpiece to look at, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s an apartment, and sometimes it’s a mess. When the characters look out the window, we know exactly what they are looking at –a world that appears to be ending.
WTC View is very much about response. Everything we see takes place after the 11th, so there isn’t a whole lot of suspense. All of the alarm is felt from Eric’s (Jeffrey Fargo) perspective –“Is it happening again? Is it another attack?” We in the audience of course know the answer. There are no more attacks, but there is still a lot of suffering and contemplation to be experienced. I think every time a different character presents themselves onstage we see a different aspect of the American public: the skeptics, the logicians, the enraged seeking vengeance, and the people who feel so invigorated by their brushes with death that they can’t wait to quit their jobs and live to the fullest. All of these people are there. We are all there. In this show we can see reflections of ourselves in a deeply psychological way. Even the lead qualifies as a topic for a psych course. Every movement that Eric (Jeffrey Fargo) makes is tremulous and anxiety-ridden. This is is a person still reeling from literal impact. And Fargo depicts the anxiety, depression, paranoia and anger that survivors often experience shockingly well. Because his experiences have already so broken him, there is not a lot of suspense. This doesn’t have a negative impact on the story, but it does make it a little bit harder to feel heartbreak. There are no moments that move me to tears, but there are plenty of moments filled with thought about humanity and what happens when we suffer. As far as the 11th goes, we know what happened, and we know what will happen to our country in the years to come. Looking at the immediate aftermath of that day and comparing them to the long-term effects we deal with now, it’s interesting to see how much and how little things have changed, and it’s especially interesting to think about who we are now because of that day.
As previously stated Jeffrey Fargo’s acting is phenomenal. The other actors range from A-B level, so everyone does a good job and holds their own. Despite the material WTC View avoids being overly depressing. I think a lot of this has to do with Kevin (Trent A. Brown). He’s hilarious. Like most of the characters he only has one conversation with Eric, but he’s so goofy and ridiculous that you can’t help but enjoy his jokes (even if they aren’t that funny). The other cast members depict the whole of America well with some pleading for immediate vengeance and others advocating more peaceful solutions. Have we really changed that much since then?
The pain of September 11th deeply and irrevocably altered our culture. And that really is the best way for me to describe it. Pain. But despite the pain we all know and remember, WTC View is really more cerebral than it is anything else. Storywise it can be best described as an examination of tragedy’s aftermath. It is fascinating to listen and watch various people outline the varying stages of grief and responses to catastrophe, and if you are in the mood for a seriously considerate evening (as well as returning to some of your own memories), I would recommend going.
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